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Miyazaki Week: Yes, THAT’S Miyazaki, Too!

by on February 24, 2010

So, Hayao Miyazaki.  Quite possibly the most influential animator on the planet Earth right now.  Owner of too many international
film awards to be counted here.  Lauded the world over for creating some of the best animated films of all time.  Director of a good few episodes of the Lupin III television show.


Yep. He made a bunch of Lupin III television episodes, and more.  Welcome to the side of Miyazaki you probably didn’t know.

Like pretty much everyone in the world, Hayao Miyazaki had to pay his dues on his way up the ladder.  Among other projects, he did key animation for select episodes of Little Witch Sally, Heidi: Girl of the Alps, and Space Adventurer Cobra, as well as art layout work for Future Boy Conan and Anne of Green Gables.  If you don’t recognize all of those names, don’t worry — these were all titles from the late 60’s to the early 80’s, and few of them made much of an impact in the American market if they were imported at all. The only Miyazaki product from the early years to get much attention at all is Lupin III, though not the TV series.  Having seen a few of the Miyazaki-directed Lupin III episodes, I can tell you they are gorgeous and very, very Miyazaki, right down to the love of things that fly.

If the names Heidi: Girl of the Alps and Anne of Green Gables seem like odd names for an anime production, you’re not so far off.  They’re actually a part of the World Masterpiece Theater line of productions made by Zuiyo Eizo/Nippon Animation, primarily but not exclusively for Fuji TV. They’re all animated adaptations of famous literary works, mostly of European or American origin.  Though Mr. Miyazaki was only involved in four World Masterpiece Theater productions in total, including some art work on Rascal the Raccoon and 30,000 Leagues In Search of Mother, the productions themselves have continued off and on until its most recent cancellation last year.

In addition to his work of the Lupin III television show Mr. Miyazaki cranked out one of the most beloved Lupin III movies of all time, Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. Many consider it the best Lupin III movie, though Lupin III’s creator Monkey Punch (yes, that’s his pen name at least) wasn’t quite as enthused since he thought the movie slightly misinterpreted the Lupin III character, making him more noble than the original playboy thief.  It has the distinction in the USA of being the only movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki that is not a part of the Disney machine, having been licensed by MGM originally, then Streamline Pictures and finally Manga Entertainment.  It’s also the only Hayao Miyazaki movie not made by Studio Ghibli.  Currently, The Castle of Cagliostro is available on DVD from Manga Entertainment.

Mr. Miyazaki was also heavily involved in a number of television projects as a director and a producer.  He served as director, as well as writer and producer, on the Sherlock Hound television series.  As one might guess, it’s a riff on the Sherlock Holmes stories with all the characters turned into anthropomorphic animals. The show made enough of an impact to be licensed by Pioneer (which renamed itself Geneon in 2003) for a US release back in late 2001.  He was also the director for Future Boy Conan, an afternoon serial based on Alexander Key’s novel The Incredible Tide, and it shows the same distinctive, rounded look of almost all Miyazaki productions.

Eventually, Mr. Miyazaki would go on to be one of the founders and chief visionaries of Studio Ghibli and produce the acclaimed movies that are the reason we know who he is, but he didn’t just spring up out of nothing. He has a very long and illustrious history in the world of animation apart from the Studio Ghibli legacy. I hope you can all find some of them for yourselves and enjoy watching one of the luminaries of our time grow.

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